Myers’ pitching, Ramsey’s defense help Valley blank Knox
Smith, Craft each have RBI as Vikings earn semifinal matchup with John Glenn
BY VAL TSOUTSOURIS
Sports Editor, RTC
LAKEVILLE — Evan Myers pitched a six-hit shutout, and Cody Smith and Hunter Craft each drove in a run to lead the Tippecanoe Valley baseball team to a 2-0 win over Knox in a Class 3A, Sectional 18 quarterfinal at Newton Park Thursday.
Myers walked none and struck out eight.
Craft and Cam Manuel had two hits each for Valley. Freshman designated hitter Dallas Martin also had a single.
The win was Valley’s first in a sectional game in fourth-year coach Jarred Littlejohn’s coaching tenure. (Littlejohn’s first season in 2020 was canceled due to the pandemic.)
Valley improved to 12-9 and earned a semifinal date with sectional host John Glenn in the semifinals. John Glenn is a defending sectional champion and was among “others receiving votes” in this week’s Class 3A coaches poll.
Knox finished 8-18.
Knox only put three runners in scoring position and only one in scoring position in the final five innings. That came in the seventh after Nolan Short’s infield single and Logan Taylor’s sharp single to left-center put runners on first and second with one out.
But Myers responded by getting Rocco Venice on a pop-up to Smith at second base and Raymond Boyd on a forceout from shortstop Noah Prater to Smith at second to end the game.
“That’s exactly what we expect out of Evan,” Littlejohn said. “Every game he comes out, he’s our guy, and that’s exactly what we expect. Work ahead in the count? He did that. Make sure your off-speed’s working? That was working.
“And the guys made plays behind him, and that’s exactly what we expect.”
Myers said he threw a fastball and a curve. He said his curve is more like a “slurve” because of his unique arm angle. He said he loved pitching in a sectional atmosphere.
“I love it,” Myers said. “I love the pressure. I want to play more when I’m in that situation. It really drives me.”
Myers outdueled Knox hurler Peter Wallsmith, who pitched a five-hitter with two walks and seven strikeouts. Fashioning both good heat and a biting slider from a slingshot motion not unlike former Cy Young winner Jake Peavy, he blanked Valley over the first three innings before they got to him in the fourth.
Markus Bernicky reached on an error to lead off the inning and stole second. Myers struck out, and Manuel’s bunt single moved Bernicky to third.
Smith then hit a grounder to first base. The first baseman momentarily bobbled the ball and decided to step on the back to retire Smith as Bernicky scored.
Issiac Ramsey led off the bottom of the fifth with a walk, stole second and went to third on a passed ball. He then scored when Craft beat out a grounder to third base for an infield hit.
“That’s what we work on all year, so it’s good to see it happen,” Littlejohn said. “Small ball baseball … whatever we have to do to get runs through.”
Ramsey, a junior right fielder, also supported Myers defensively on multiple occasions.
He made a stellar catch to rob Wallsmith with a runner on second and one out in the first inning.
With Logan Taylor on first and two outs in the second, he fielded Boyd’s base hit in shallow right field and threw out Taylor trying to advance to third.
Ramsey was a catcher most of his pre-varsity baseball career, but with Pettit behind the plate, he had to learn another position in order to get playing time.
Because of Myers’ propensity to allow soft contact, Ramsey plays a shallower-than-normal right field.
“That’s what Ike’s been working all season for,” Littlejohn said. “He’s been a catcher for us in the program and played a little bit of infield. And this year, we had him fill a hole in the outfield. … ‘Ike, you’re going.’ … That was awesome. I’m so happy for him and all the hard work he’s put in. It finally paid off.”
As for Pettit, he threw out Rowen Jordan trying to steal second from his knees in the sixth inning. Asked about it, Myers smiled and said it was “no surprise.”
Myers said he can trust that Pettit, a Grace College recruit, will block pitches in the dirt.
“He’s been catching for me since I was 10 years old,” Myers said. “So a lot of trust there.”
Valley 2, Knox 0
Knox 000 000 0 – 0 6 2
Valley 000 110 X – 2 5 2
WP – Evan Myers (7 IP, 6 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 8 K)
LP – Peter Wallsmith (6 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 7 K)
XBH – (none)